(News Spanish) — The Panamanian justice system opened a trial on Tuesday against former President Ricardo Martinelli for money laundering in the case that the Prosecutor’s Office calls “New Business”, alleging that he participated in the purchase of a publishing group with funds allegedly obtained after money laundering and that They came, according to the Public Ministry, from contracts with the State that were allegedly handled irregularly.
In a statement, the Prosecutor’s Office affirmed that in this case, which began to be investigated in 2017, it was able to identify that the purchase of shares of Editora Panamá América, which publishes newspapers and magazines, was made “through a complex scheme in which legal entities were involved. and natural, who carried out financial stratification maneuvers, through multiple national and international transactions”, with which they supposedly collected close to US$ 44 million in 2010 in an account in an offshore bank in the name of New Business Services Limited.
News has tried to get reactions from Editora Panamá América (Epasa) for the mention in this trial, but so far has not received a response. Luis Eduardo Camacho, Martinelli’s spokesman, did not respond to News if the former president has ties to Epasa.
Martinelli is one of the 15 defendants in this case. Five who went to the courtroom and eight who attended virtually pleaded not guilty in court. The former president, for his part, did not participate in the trial, since he claimed “medical incapacity”, like another of the defendants. In fact, his lawyer had requested that the start of the hearing be suspended because he underwent surgery, but the judge denied the request. Initially, the trial was scheduled to take place between April 17 and 28, but due to various appeals filed by the defendants’ lawyers, it was suspended; it is now scheduled to conclude on June 5.
Regarding this case and other proceedings against him, former President Martinelli has always said that he is a victim of political persecution. One of his lawyers, Alfredo Vallarino, told News that the former president is “absolutely innocent of the charges” and that “it is a political case, without legal support.”
Carlos Carrillo, also from Martinelli’s legal team, told the press outside the courtroom that the defense seeks to guarantee their rights. “We have already formally invoked the corresponding annulments and we will insist on that. What we want is for there to be a process in accordance with the law and not hastily,” said Carrillo.
The first day of trial
During the first day of the trial, Judge Baloisa Marquínez, of the second court for criminal cases, rejected requests for suspension of the act, challenges, and appeals for reconsideration, all presented through the defense of former President Martinelli.
In this regard, prosecutor Emeldo Márquez, from the specialized prosecutor’s office against organized crime, said that “obviously when the court makes its assessment, it considers that the elements exist to call these people to trial, because it considers that the means exist that support at least the connection of these people to these criminal acts.”
The entire process is broadcast live by the Judicial Branch of Panama, through its digital platform.
Former President Martinelli was acquitted in 2019 and 2021 in a case for alleged interceptions of communications and monitoring and persecution without judicial authorization against businessmen, politicians and journalists, among others.
In November, the Panamanian Attorney General’s Office announced that Martinelli and former president Juan Carlos Varela are facing another trial, scheduled for August, for alleged money laundering in the Odebrecht case, in which six former ministers and two Martinelli’s children, among other defendants.
Martinelli’s spokesman said then that “the facts charged are false because it is proven that the funds for which they are trying to link” the former president “were political campaign donations declared before the Electoral Tribunal.”
Varela, for his part, declared in a statement that it was “an unfair process” and that he was “convinced of his innocence.”
The Public Ministry explained to News that neither Odebrecht nor its executives are on the list of defendants or witnesses for the purposes of the trial, because the agreements and their statements are documentary evidence. In July 2017, the Brazilian construction company agreed to pay a US$220 million fine after signing an effective collaboration agreement with the Panamanian justice system.
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